When I think about the holiday season in winter, I do not feel the drive the be social and outgoing. Instead I feel like it is a time to go inward. To reflect on the year and to renew my spirit for the coming year. I often feel like a little bear who wants to snuggle up in a cave and hibernate or like a turtle that wants to retreat within myself. When I get this feeling, I want to do yoga, meditate and maybe treat myself to some much-needed renewal. I truly love visiting hot springs and other healing centers. It is like going back into the warm womb of existence and being re-born.
In the spirit of renewal, I thought I'd share some of my all time favorite places to go and maybe if you have some of your own to share with me, please post and share!
Shibui Gardens (San Anselmo, CA)
A real staple. I go here often for massages that include a 1/2 hour soak in one of their 3 hot tubs. They also offer sauna for an additional price. It is the most unassuming spot, sitting in the back of a parking lot! But once you enter the wooden gate you are transported to another land. While you are there, have lunch and check out the very charming town and shops of San Anselmo.
Kabuki Springs Spa (San Francisco, CA)
Another staple. I go here often for massage and to take the waters. You can stay as long as you like and they have a great rewards program. Great place to take a book and read while you sweat. They have alternate male / female days and will ring a gong if someone is chatting too much. Quiet please, thank you.While you are there, pretend you are in Japan and hang out in Japan town. Great sushi joints and a lovely bookstore called "Forest Books" has some very zen reading selections. Find some choice green tea in the mall.
Refuge Spa (Carmel, CA)
Really a part of a local gym / tennis club, when you walk through the gates, opens up into a beautiful, clean and spacious park in the Carmel Valley. They have many pools of various temperatures to walk in and out of. You can rent a robe, towels and locker, or bring your own. Also bring some slippers. They have a futuristic steam room, a gigantic dry sauna and the coldest cold plunges. Also some nice fire pits scattered throughout. Nice to go at night when the steam rises over the pools and you can sweat under the stars. Check out the magical beach town of Carmel and one of the most beautiful Mission churches.
The Spring (Desert Hot Springs, CA - near Palm Springs / Joshua Tree)
A wonderful place to relax and get far, far away from everywhere. I recommend to stay overnight in one of their beautifully designed rooms so you can use their heated pool, natural hot mineral pools and dry sauna. Otherwise you can just visit for a massage or treatment and enjoy the pools for a short while if you are visiting the area. Very close to some amazing hiking through the desert parks and oasis. Some great hikes at Joshua Tree, Indian Canyon and Coachella Valley Preserve.
Ten Thousand Waves (Santa Fe, NM)
One of my favorite places. Also fun to go at night and bathe under the stars. Feels like you are in Japan, the owners travel there often. Smell the cedar wood fires and Pinon trees. You may also hear an animal howling in the desert. Some of the best massages. They have "Master" therapists and various spa rituals, some of which take place in little cottages along a lamp-lit path. You can rent private tubs, each one unique in design. If you are light in the wallet, you can go for the communal bath option and stay as long as you like, take the cold plunge, hit the sauna and check out their meditation room, complete with headphones where you can hear the ocean waves, even though you are miles away from any ocean. While you are there, check out the magical town of Santa Fe, art galleries, Georgia O'Keefe museum, mission churches and a mixture of Native American and Mexican crafts, beautiful turquoise crafts and tapestries.
Negombo, (on the Island of Ischia, Naples Italy)
I call this place the "Disneyland of Spas." It is not like Disneyland at all, except for the fact that you can go into so many different various types of mineral pools, all different shapes, sizes, types of water, minerals and temperatures. It's like going being in a spa amusement park. The island of Ischia is a volcanic island, thus the hot, mineral baths and it is also a very laid back island. Quiet, peaceful and relaxing. A stone's throw away from Naples, the incredibly beautiful island of Capri, Pompeii, Sorrento and the Amalfi coast. Not too many people get to visit here in off-season. Highly recommend to visit the whole area of Naples and the bay of Naples for a few unforgettable weeks.